October 4, 2018 at 2:38 p.m.
Chouinard, Wurdemann and defense lead homecoming rout
The Vikings opened their new turf field with a 47-0 homecoming dismantling of Hibbing
Chouinard ran for the first touchdown of the game from 19 yards out, then connected with Thomas Wurdemann on a 40-yard pass for the second touchdown of the game, and he had a hand in three of NB’s two point conversions.
It wasn’t a one-man show, though, for North Branch on their grand homecoming. Not only was it the big annual celebration, it was the Vikings’ first chance to play in front their home crowd this year and on their brand new turf field. Everyone from Chouinard to the defense impressed the large swath of fans that came out to support the team.
Wurdemann ripped off big chunks of yardage every time he touched the ball, whether it was on the ground or through the air. Eric Nadeau had punishing runs from the full back position, and Conner Hartmann scored two touchdowns as he found gaping holes all night created by the offensive line.
The defense did a great job limited Hibbing’s athletic quarterback and keeping him from getting loose. Whenever Hibbing built a little momentum on offense, North Branch’s defense would come up with a bigger play to stop them in their tracks.
Even North Branch’s special teams had a great game, blocking a punt and converting their first extra point kick attempt of the year.
The game started out a bit uneasy for North Branch, however. They were moving the ball well on their first drive, but once they got down into Hibbing’s redzone, they fumbled the ball in the backfield and the Bluejackets pounced on it, turning NB over.
But, the defense stood tall and forced a punt from Hibbing. They moved down the field quickly, and the first drive was capped off with a 19-yard touchdown run from Chouinard, who broke free down the right sideline. Wurdemann converted the two point attempt to put NB up 8-0.
The defense had another lights out drive, keeping Hibbing in check before getting the ball back for their offense. On just the second play from scrimmage, Chouinard faked a handoff up the middle that sucked the whole Hibbing defense up towards the line of scrimmage and he lofted a pass up to Wurdemann, who didn’t have a defender within 12 yards of him. Wurdemann corralled the pass and waltzed into the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown untouched. Chouinard kept the ball on the two point attempt and crossed the goalline to build NB’s lead to 16-0.
On Hibbing’s next drive, they were forced to punt after a stand from NB’s defense, and that’s when Drew Van Eerden broke through the middle and blocked the punt, with Brandon Swanson recovering it. The Vikings made good on the turnover, driving down the field and finishing it off with a one-yard touchdown plunge from Hartmann. Chouinard called his own number on the two point conversion and outran the Hibbing defense to the pylon, stretching the lead to 24-0.
The offense was quickly back in business after a Gavyn Jensen-Schneider interception set them up with great field position. It looked like they were going to convert the score right away as Nadeau broke through the middle and was running unobstructed to the end zone. But, near the 20 yard line, the ball slipped out of Nadeau’s hand without anyone within 10 yards of him. Luckily, he pounced on it because a holding call brought the call all the way back. But, Wurdemann then picked up where Nadeau left off, scampering 52 yards for a touchdown just two plays later. He got the call on the two point conversion, also, as North Branch’s lead swelled to 32-0.
The Vikings slowed down considerably throughout the rest of the game. Hartmann scored on the first possession of the third quarter, bringing in a 26 yard touchdown before the North Branch offense mostly shut it down.
They did add an 11 yard touchdown score form Dakarri Woods in the fourth quarter, and with the game comfortably in hand, Van Eerden attempted North Branch’s first kick of the year on an extra point, and he put it through the uprights to give the coaching staff some confidence he can get the job done in game action.
The rejuvenated Vikings will make their second trip to Duluth this season to take on Denfeld on Friday, October 5. The Hunters are 2-3 on the year and are coming off of a 36-11 win over Proctor.
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